Friday, February 26, 2010


Every year on February 28 Andalucía celebrates its national day. The region also pays homage to Blas Infante – the father of the modern Andalucía. He died for his belief in a federal Andalucía for as the military coup took hold in 1936 he was rounded up by the Falange and shot. It was four years later – June 1940 – when a judicial death sentence was handed down to justify his assassination – a verdict that still stands to this day.

Blas Infante Pérez de Vargas was born in Casares on July 5, 1885. Today Casares is a small inland village on the Costa del Sol but back then the majority of the population lived in abject poverty. Blas’ father – Luis Infante Andrade – was licensed in law and was the secretary of the Casares court. His mother – Ginesa Pérez de Vargas – was from a family of farm labourers.

Blas studied for his ‘bachillerato’ in Archidona till 1899 when the family suffered badly in the economic disaster of 1898 that saw the country loose its colonies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines after the Spanish – American War. This forced Blas to leave college with his final course in his ‘bachillerato’ uncompleted. From 1900 he worked as a secretary at the court in Casares and at the same time studied with the faculty of law at Granada University travelling there in June and September to take his exams before finally becoming a lawyer in 1906.

From 1910 he worked as a notary in Cantillana which allowed him to make contact with the intellectuals living in Sevilla where he started to develop his ideas on Andalucía especially with the members of the Ateneo de Sevilla. The hard conditions of the agricultural labourers who worked on a daily basis made a major impact on him forging his socialist beliefs.

It was during the reign of Alfonso XIII that Blas Infante’s political thoughts developed along Republican and federalist lines. He believed in the defending of Andalucía as a Spanish region different from the rest of the country – furthermore he wanted to see Andalucía reconstructed as part of the wider regeneration of Spain.

Around this time he wrote: “My nationalism, before being Andaluz, is human. I believe that by birth nature signals to the soldiers of life the place where they have to fight for it. I work for the cause of the spirit of Andalucía because that is where I was born. If I was born elsewhere I would fight for that cause with equal fervour.”

By 1915 he had set out his personal vision of the history, identity and problems of Andalucía in his most important book ‘Ideal Andaluz’. In 1918 he was present at the Assembly of Ronda, where inspired by the Constitution of Antequera of 1883, it set out the bases for ‘Andalucismo’ in order to obtain political autonomy for Andalucía. The assembly adopted the design of the flag and coat of arms of Andalucía proposed by Blas Infante.

In the 1918 elections Blas Infante attempted to stand in the district elections for Gaucín and a year later there again and in Sevilla but the strong presence of the ‘caciquismo’ – local bosses who protected the political and economic elite - prevented his success. On January 1, 1919, he signed along with other members of several Centros Andaluces the Manifesto Andalucista de Córdoba that defined the concept of Andalucía as a historic nationality within a federal Spain.

When the Second Republic was proclaimed in 1931 he took the post of notary in Coria del Rio where he built a house called ‘Dar al-Farah’ or ‘House of Happiness’ inspired by the architecture of Al Andalus personally overseeing its decoration. He presided over the Junta Liberalista de Andalucía which presented candidates for the Partido Republicano Federal. It did not win any seats in parliament but its manifesto repudiated centralism for federalism, sought a solution to the ‘caciquismo’, the reform of the electoral, economic and justice systems and promoted the freedom of expression amongst its beliefs. He ran for parliament again in the elections of November 1933 for Málaga for a coalition Izquierda Republicana Andaluz formed by the Partido Republicano Radical Socialista and the Izquierda Radical Socialista but its failure left Blas Infante a disillusioned man.

In 1933 Blas Infante proposed that the melody of the hymn Santo Dios, sung by the workers when they finished for the day should become the Himno de Andalucía. After the elections of 1936 and the victory of the Popular Front the Andalucista political movement received a boost. During a conference in Sevilla on July 5 Blas Infante was acclaimed as the president of honour of the future Junta Regional de Andalucía. Just days later the military coup led to the start of the Spanish Civil War. Various members of the Falange went to Blas Infante’s house in Coria del Rio and he was taken away to be shot without any trial or sentence being handed down. His assassination took place on August 11 along with two other prisoners at km 4 on the Sevilla to Carmona road. It was not till four years later on May 4 1940 that the Tribunal de Responsabilidades Políticas, created after the end of the Civil War, condemned Blas Infante to death and also ruled that his heirs should pay a fine.

It is ironic that whilst the Junta de Andalucía formed after Spain’s return to democracy has adopted the flag, coat of arms and national anthem created by Blas Infante – no steps have been taken to reverse the judicial sentence handed down years after his death. This rankles with many so perhaps amongst this year’s celebrations for the 125 th anniversary of his birth the father of Andalucía might finally receive justice.

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